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: Yves Tanguy: Through Birds, through Fire, but Not through Glass


Sidney Simon



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
The collection of The Minneapolis Institute of Arts includes among its treasures of twentieth-century painting two important works by Yves Tanguy, one of the most accomplished masters of the surrealist movement. The two paintings, Through Birds, through Fire, but Not through Glass1 (figure 1) and Response to Red2(figure 3), are representative of Tanguy's mature style of the 1940s. They are similar in style, both are dated 1943, and both are the gifts of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Winston. Response to Red, a horizontal picture of great charm and distinction, is the brighter, more open and relaxed of the two paintings, but Through Birds. . . , which is more nearly square in format, is the more important work. It is perhaps the outstanding work of the artist's first American period, 1939 to 1945. It is also an exemplary surrealist painting that we will want to examine in the context of that movement's revolutionary objectives.Tanguy's life as a practicing artist was dominated by his active participation in the surrealist movement.3 Born in Paris in 1900, he was the son of a retired naval officer. He was educated in the Paris lycées, but spent his childhood vacations at the family home in Brittany, where the harsh landscape of this northernmost part of France made a lasting impression on him. The recollected images of the menhirs and dolmens that he saw as a child, relics of the country's prehistoric past, would one day serve to mediate between the fantasies he discovered in the real world and the reality he sought to uncover in his subjective imagination. At eighteen, he began a two-year term in the French merchant marine as an apprentice officer, after which time he entered the military service. While in uniform at Lunéville, he met the future poet and film director Jacques Prévert, who immediately stimulated his interest in avant-garde French literature. After their release from the service in 1922, the two lodged together in Paris, where Tanguy began to circulate among the younger poets and writers. He had never considered becoming an artist, and began to draw and paint only in 1923. Two years later he met André Breton, who promptly recruited him into the newly-formed surrealist movement. That same year the young intellectual Marcel Duhamel invited Tanguy and Prévert to join him in his rented house at 54 rue du Château which, from that time, became an important meeting place for the surrealists. Tanguy, whose adherence to the movement was unfaltering to the end of his life, worked in Paris until the outbreak of World War II, when he fled Europe in 1939 for a new life in America. There he joined other prominent surrealists in exile, among them André Breton, Max Ernst, André Masson, and a newcomer to the movement, Matua. After some months of travel, mainly in California, Nevada, and Canada, he married the American artist Kay Sage in 1940. Shortly thereafter the couple took up residence in Woodbury, Connecticut, where Tanguy painted, in 1943, the two canvases in the Institute's collection.Through Birds... is a typical painting of Tanguy's first American period, when his style underwent a number of changes, some of which reflect the influence of his new life and surroundings in Connecticut. In a rare comment about his work at this time, he noted: "Here in the United States, the only change I can distinguish in my work is possibly my palette. What the cause of this intensification of color is I can't say. But I do recognize a considerable change. Perhaps it is due to the light. I also have a feeling of greater space, more room."4 Looking back upon the brilliant series of paintings he created at this time, we can see that the subtle transformation in style that these works reveal was not dependent upon a heightened palette. The brighter color was but a symptom of an increased sensuousness in virtually all aspects of his painting style during these first years in America. If we compare Response to Red and Through Birds... to examples of his work from the 1930s, we find that in the newer works the forms have grown larger and more complex and the poetic feeling has become greatly intensified. Particularly in Through Birds... has the poetry become more open and exuberant. The surrealistic content of the image has transformed itself into a powerfully hallucinatory effect, more than in any other single work of this period.Such an effect, by means of which we judge the success or failure of the "pure" surrealist work of art, is not a chance product of the creative process, although chance certainly plays an important part. That magical, transforming outcome that marks the work as surrealist is the result of considerable calculation. The nature of this result and how it is brought about represents for the critic and historian of the movement the essential problem of surrealist art. This problem, as it applies to the work of Tanguy, has two separate but related parts. The first is relevant to any surrealist work that seeks to achieve through the poetic or visual image the effect of the "marvelous," which, we may define as a kind of spasm of revelation originating in the imagination of the artist, but transferable by means of the image to the experience of the viewer. The surrealist considers the work of art to function as the indispensable agent for the reconstruction of one's mental life, a very focused form of what we might today call "consciousness raising," but along highly revolutionary lines. The point that must be emphasized here is that the ambiguity of the image, in its controlled ambiguousness, serves a quite unambiguous function. In the surrealist work where, as in Tanguy's paintings, the intention is quite pure, what is most ambiguous (the image) is also the most clear (the effect).The second part of the problem concerns the relationship between the "marvelous" as the content of a surrealist work and its acceptability to the viewer as an alternative form of reality. In Through Birds.... although we may take the invading presence of the biomorph in its timeless environment to be the image of Tanguy's "marvelous," we must also be convinced of its reality; for if we are not, we may well be prompted to take it for mere fantasy or to relegate it to the realm of the abstract. Tanguy hopes to foreclose these possibilities by the force of his illusionism, by its being grounded in the real. If he succeeds in this—as he does in Through Birds...—then the viewer is able to confirm the reality of his experience of the work, although in no way able to interpret it. The experience remains what we might call an effective mystery which acts on his mind in order to radicalize it. If he accepts this condition for viewing the work, then he cannot hope to do more than clarify the conditions that are responsible for the work's effectiveness.André Breton solved the problem of a surrealist criticism by composing parallel texts, writings that do not seek to explain but rather to reflect on the experience of the work of art and are themselves artistic creations.5 In his introduction to a small book devoted to Tanguy's work, he describes his intent:
In these writings on Yves Tanguy there is nothing even meant to resemble art criticism; the temptation to situate his work historically has been avoided and no attempt has been made to analyze the means he employs. Any didactic intention has been rigorously excluded; these pages are presented rather as a succession of echoes and flashes that his work has evoked in one person at long intervals.... Nevertheless, this interpretation, with its thin beam of light, tends to illuminate a fragment of the constant flux and, furthermore, finds grace in the fact that it in no wise violates this cardinal principle: criticism can exist only as a form of love.6
Tanguy's adherence to the surrealist program and his quest for the "marvelous" in his painting imply a process, a method for bringing about the desired result. Once he had established his mature style in the early 1930s, his method of working did not change much, if at all, over the years. Tanguy was basically a graphic artist, and his method grew out of improvisational drawing as a kind of support for his carefully rendered illusionistic images. Unfortunately, the literature on Tanguy is uninformative about the composition and execution of his paintings. His many existing drawings, none of which is a sketch for a painting, give us some indication of how he encouraged his freely flowing line to generate the individual image without the control of the conscious mind. This technique of automatic drawing is well known. Although Tanguy does not refer to drawing per se in relation to painting in his 1954 statement, the implication is there: "The painting develops before my eyes, unfolding its surprises as it progresses. It is this which gives me the sense of complete liberty, and for this reason I am incapable of forming a plan or making a sketch beforehand?"7 Given Tanguy's highly finished canvases, how could the surprises unfold apart from some sort of graphic method? Very likely Tanguy drew directly on the canvas before and during its execution in paint. What this means is not that he sketched the work out beforehand but that he drew and painted as he went along, employing the techniques of drawing and painting in tandem so as to allow the forms to emerge freely and the image to develop spontaneously. Tanguy was also interested in how the automatic process could be used to generate the whole of a complex image through a technique of association. Thus one form having freely emerged would "automatically" suggest another and yet another until the whole image would eventually constitute itself as a combination of automatic drawing and free association. It is this interactive principle in Tanguy's paintings, especially those of the 1930s, that adds a special rhythmic quality to the ambiguous forms and images themselves. William Rubin, a formalist critic, concluded that Tanguy's automatism was "entirely at odds with his tight execution?"8 But was it? The issue of contradiction is an intriguing one and is worth pursuing.The surrealist chooses to live with certain contradictions; some of these become part of the subject matter of his art; some he affirms in this way, and some he denies (not always consciously). If we look at Tanguy the man and Tanguy the artist we become aware immediately of a certain contradiction. On the one hand we see a cultivated, urbane Frenchman, the epitome of high culture, who despises the conventions of bourgeois existence; on the other we find the dedicated, uncorrupted, if discreet, surrealist revolutionary whose goal is to embrace an alternative reality of hallucinatory force and its consequences. Unlike Breton, Tanguy was able to live with this contradiction because he did not demand of himself more social revolutionary action than his painting afforded him. Perhaps for that reason he required of himself only the purest artistic motives. An orderly man by temperament, Tanguy saw clearly and at an early date in his career that he could sustain a surrealist art, if at all, only at total risk. The hallucinatory image, carrier of the "marvelous," could be achieved, he knew, only after the most careful preparation in his everyday life and in the studio. He understood to what extent he would have to develop forms of resistance to the inroads of ordinary reality—in his thinking, in his private life and in his art world relationships. In carefully circumscribed areas of his existence, freedom from the pressure of reason became prerequisite for the kind of freedom he sought in his art. The patience to resist and the freedom to create thus constituted the natural connection between the modesty of the man and the obsessive character of his art.From his earliest contacts with Breton in 1925, Tanguy unhesitatingly adopted the surrealist faith in its entirety, based as it was on the privacy of the individual's quest for the "marvelous" and on the recognition of the essential solemnity of the task. Not much given to the black humor so often used by other surrealists of the twenties and thirties to achieve the "marvelous," he focused instead upon his private vision of a space outside of time, the particular space of his inner landscape. He experienced an extraordinary spiritual isolation which was in no way diminished by his active fellowship in the surrealist fraternity. Breton perceived the kind of dedication implied by this isolation when he composed the beautiful line, "Yves behind the grating of his blue eyes."9 And in truth, behind that "grating," no one got very far; nor did Tanguy himself desire to probe the recesses of his own or anyone's mind. He kept a uniquely surrealist distance from life; he was not interested in explanations, the boring products of the rational mind, but in results, in the images that were accumulating on the canvases in his studio. These became his spiritual possessions and they engaged his mind and passions fully. "Very much alone in my work, I am in fact jealous of it."10Taking into account this attitude of mind, it is not difficult for us to understand why Tanguy refused to talk about his work. Not only was talk treason against the self, it was a betrayal of the work. Even had he wished to, he could not hope to explain what he had so carefully sheltered himself from knowing in the first place. He wished not to know certain things and to unlearn certain other things. His intellectual outlook was quite complex. He was a careful reader of the modern French poets but he was also partial to Montaigne. This latter interest represented his rational and skeptical side. But he could also say, "I've resisted learning all my life and I don't propose to start teaching others now."11Of all the surrealist artists of major repute it was only Tanguy who resisted learning about modern art. As William Rubin writes in his book Dada and Surrealist Art, "Tanguy's disengagement from twentieth-century styles makes for a unity of oeuvre that is virtually without parallel in modern art."12 Kay Sage's remark that her husband was "perhaps the only true surrealist—almost like a medium"13 rings true in this context. For it is precisely Tanguy's "unlearned" realism (illusionism), with its carefully nurtured overtones of the genuinely naive, that separates it from nineteenth-century academic realism. Surely, then, Hilton Kramer is mistaken in his assessment of Tanguy as the Bouguereau of twentieth-century art.14 All too often the magic intensity of the one is mistaken for the high kitsch of the other, and vice versa.More serious is Kramer's criticism of Tanguy's visual idiom and his vocabulary of surrealist forms. Kramer writes that the "elegant debris littering this imaginary landscape" no longer has the charge of authenticity it once had and that it "acquired the unhappy character of an overworked cliché."15 It is true that Tanguy's characteristic biomorph, once a new means of expression, has become all too familiar. Tanguy did not invent the form. Jean Arp used it as a two-dimensional form as early as 1916, and Max Ernst placed it in illusionistic space in 1919-1920. Tanguy adopted it in 1927, the same year that Joan Miro did. William Rubin writes, "Tanguy was to take these forms out of the pristine, flat environment of Arp's reliefs and construct a whole landscape world with them."16 Familiarity, however, does not always work against the effectiveness of the image. In a strong work like the Minneapolis picture, the feedback that results from the recognizable idiom does not hinder access to the "marvelous" and may well help to provoke it. It goes without saying that where there is no sympathy for the artist's intentions, the work of art will not perform its magic. Then, too, there is the question of the viewer's expectations. The painterly esthetic that Kramer had hoped to find in Tanguy's painting was not there to begin with. An unlearned painter, a poet's painter, Tanguy emphasized not the painterly or pictorial qualities but the image (poetic qualities), thereby reversing the traditional priorities of easel painting.Breton's surrealist pronouncements, beginning in 1924 when he founded the movement, and Tanguy's dreamlike images, starting in 1926-1927, are intimately related to the early history of surrealism. Naturally inclined toward the "what" rather than the "how" of painting, Tanguy (in Breton's view at least) became, in the 1930s, the model surrealist artist. His recognition as something of a pioneering figure corresponds, chronologically, to Breton's shift in emphasis in theory from automatism (technique) to image (poetic content).17Tanguy's initiation into visual art came suddenly in 1923 when, by chance, he discovered the work of de Chirico. Two years later he had joined the surrealists and had viewed the first group exhibition of the movement at the Galerie Pierre, Paris. Included in the exhibition were artists who were, for the most part, surrealist after the fact: Arp, de Chirico, Ernst, Klee, Masson, Miró, Picasso, Man Ray, and Pierre Roy. Tanguy was greatly stimulated by what he saw, and shortly thereafter he created his first surrealist works. These were exhibited at the newly founded Galerie Surréaliste in 1927. Influenced by de Chirico's haunting spaces, Tanguy felt encouraged to sweep his canvas clean of modern art forms, mainly cubist and expressionist. Starting from the bare, primordial landscape of his inner mind, he introduced into it—sparingly—animal and vegetable forms, as well as a few odd objects and markings. The process of unlearning had begun, but the results were still uncertain and the forms tentative. Nevertheless, Breton was attracted to these brilliantly innovative works. He had originally focused upon automatic writing, but the artists who had exhibited in 1925 were not all "automatic" artists. Aware as early as 1925 of an impending "crisis of consciousness" developing within the movement, Breton began to defend the possibility of a consciously surrealist painting. Necessarily this implied a new focus upon the central importance of the image. What had been an idea in 1925 became doctrine by 1929. The Second Manifesto of Surrealism of that year saw the poet and the painter each in his respective medium in pursuit of the "inner model," which, as J. H. Matthews explains, "is thus a mirror turned to face the poet's imagination and to exclude the world around him."18 During this same period two distinct currents in surrealist painting emerged: the abstract (Ernst, Miró, Masson) and the veristic (Magritte, Dali, Tanguy). By the early thirties, when Tanguy created his second or "classic" style, the latter became dominant.From the 1930s on Tanguy's painting style developed at an even pace, the accomplished style of the "classic" period undergoing various changes in the forties and fifties. There is also the sense of an orderly, if not necessarily logical, progression of an idea in his work from its initial statement in the middle 1920s to its ultimate development in the 1950s. This kind of unfolding of an idea is the best evidence we can have that Tanguy was secure, in each of the stages of his development, of having realized his objectives. Having first emptied his canvases to reveal a primordial inner terrain in the 1920s, he began to populate them with gatherings of biomorphs in the 1930s. In this newly constituted world, no longer primordial, where time is stilled, the forms of his inner model take shape. It is a world where anything may happen to disturb the pristine order of things. Objects, as yet minuscule in relation to the far scene they articulate, communicate with each other in mute association. They are to each other as a relation; and the drama of timeless existence in which they are held enacts itself in an atmosphere of strict decorum. Under Tanguy's sure guidance, his inner model, that which is unreal by ordinary standards attains the reality of the "sur-real." It was the invention of what Hilton Kramer aptly called his "scenic style"19 that certified Tanguy in the eyes of his colleagues as one of surrealism's purest practitioners (figure 4).In the early forties the colonization of Tanguy's inner landscape proceeded rapidly. Simple monoliths once scattered along the ground are now transformed into aggregates that form complex wholes. Although a neutral gray functions as a base tone, bright colors appear here and there to create livelier effects than before. What the new constructions appear to gain in size they seem to lose in weightiness. They are now more specifically anthropomorphic in character and therefore they somehow appear to be more physically violent and internally agitated. In the paintings of the late 1940s the feeling of compression intensifies; biomorphs now crowd the edges of the canvas. There is a new sense of commotion in these works that is not due to sound or movement, but relates simply to the character and disposition of the forms. It is obvious that the great spaces that Tanguy had liberated in order to accommodate his inner model were being overrun by the products of his imagination. In the paintings of the 1950s, the final phase of his development, the implications of an imagination threatened with extinction are made clear. In Multiplication of the Arcs, painted within a year of his death, the terrain is completely covered and the artist's quest for the "marvelous" is over (figure 6). In this concluding phase, the aggressive anthropomorphism recedes and the inner landscape, now overrun, assumes a more natural appearance. It is significant that the voyage of the artist ends, much as it began, in the vast reaches of the primordial wasteland. The poetry of multiplication, profusion, and inundation of geological forms anticipates the artist's physical death in its message of finality.Response to Red and Through Birds... are among the more calm and compositionally balanced of Tanguy's works of the early 1940s. Closely related in style are two paintings from the same year, Equivocal Colors20 and Solar Perios,21 and one from the following year, Twice22 (figure 5). Response to Red has an unusual format and brighter color. Through Birds.... because of its clarity of form and concentrated effect, would seem to qualify as the paradigm work of this particular phase of Tanguy's development.One prominent feature to be found in all five of these paintings is the illusionistic rendering of semitransparent materials. Suggestions of rubberlike textures appear in Tanguy's work as early as the 1930s, but it is not until the paintings of the first American period that we find whole forms rendered as cloth or plastic. In Through Birds... the large red yellow form that balloons out at the top center of the picture, somewhat like a head, displays foldlike surfaces which seem to be neither rigid nor pliable. No less indeterminate in character is the large, horizontal gray form lower down which has the appearance of a wrapped object, the outer layer of which could well be some semitransparent material. It is tempting, but hardly conclusive, to relate this emphasis on transparent effects to the title of the work, which suggests a light that passes through "birds" and "fire" but paradoxically not through "glass." This is the light that looks in upon the inner model. Solar Perils exhibits a large, faceted object whose sharp-edged sides have wavy, transparent-looking surfaces. Equivocal Colors displays a pillowlike form that is unmistakably transparent in appearance, and Twice reveals a large, gray, screenlike shape that is semitransparent and shrouds the major forms of the image.The feature that most clearly distinguishes Through Birds... and sets it apart from the paintings mentioned above is the unity of its visual focus. The painting reads almost as if it were a portrait study of a single biomorph. On the other hand, whether we are viewing a single creature or two or more independent creatures is quite impossible to determine. Nor is it clear which parts belong with and are attached to which other parts. In short, the biomorph, taken as a construction, does not lend itself readily to the possibility of being disassembled and reassembled in the mind, although the individual parts are themselves clearly identified. Each has its own color, definable shape, location, and space. Contributing also to the effective unity of the image are various anthropomorphic features such as the red yellow form at the top which serves as a kind of head, the gray form below which suggests the line of the shoulder, the footlike forms at the bottom, and the two extremities shaped somewhat like hands. And, of course, the position of this curious creature in front plane of the picture, dominating the space, also serves to consolidate the image.Disposed singly and in clusters around the central mass of the biomorph are numerous satellite objects. These function to articulate the near and far spaces of the scene, providing by their locations and shadows the only effective means for estimating distances. The black shadows they cast are a prominent feature of the image; they serve to define the shape of the various forms and to determine the relationships between them. Often the shadows tend to lift off a supporting surface and hence appear to sustain an existence all their own. The very brilliance of the illumination also suggests a paradox. Since we cannot easily identify the light source with that of a warming sun, we tend to view the scene as if its brightness were that of a night sky. Also the coloring of objects has a strangely unfamiliar quality. It is as if the colored surface of an object was not a color but something else, perhaps part of its substance. Hence, the strange effects of local color where, for example, a red surface, as in the footlike form at the lower left, may suddenly whiten as if the color had been drained from that part of it whether by the action of the elements over time or by the sheer intensity of the illumination hitting that area.Taken as whole image, however, the scene has an airy, silvery beauty that is able to absorb the diversity and brightness of its parts without undue difficulty. The pervasive blues, grays, and greens of its great aerial space conjure up a palpable, if imaginary, world. Here and there are quite handsome and unexpected impasto passages, at the left where the light flares up and in the sky directly behind the upper forms of the central biomorph (figure 2). Against this background, we see the imposing biomorph in a finely articulated relationship to the far spaces of the scene. What Tanguy achieves is not so much a balanced composition—although he does that—as a balanced scene. The biomorph is not large in relation to the space but only appears so because the scene is limited by the picture's frame. No part of the image, including the satellite objects, crowds or touches the edges of the picture; and the space in and around the biomorph is both open and generous.Between the kind of equilibrium that we find in the picture—the balance between solid and void, crowding and openness, stasis and activity, color and its absence, light and shadow—and the magical force we discover in the scene there is an intimate relation. The picture is the window, the scene is what we look in upon; Tanguy's inner model. For the scene to become hallucinatory ("sur-real") the model must first become concrete (credible to experience). The power of the scene, however, does not derive primarily from fantasy or reality but from coordinated relations of ambiguity. For example, the great space of the picture, for all of its concrete reality as a space, is an indeterminate place. It exists for us somewhere but nowhere that we can fix upon or define in terms of ordinary reality. And the same holds for the terrain, the sky and the effects of atmosphere. For the viewer they are accurate renderings of themselves, but we cannot place them in our familiar world without ambiguity. The blurring of earth and sky at an indeterminate horizon, creates the impression of a reality warp in which far and near seem to be extraordinarily elastic concepts. Objects rest and float upon an uncertain terrain, shadows appear to be both actual and arbitrary, and the spaces between objects contract and expand according to the viewer's shifting focus. While the biomorphic forms do not invite the same kind of close comparison with natural forms, they too have an ambiguous status. They would appear to be made up of diverse substances, all of indeterminate character, in which no density, no texture, no degree of opacity or transparency can be adequately specified. The hallucinatory effect results from our realization of the paradox of a world that exists and does not exist.What this analysis of Through Birds... has tried to clarify is not the content of the image, not its magic center—this the viewer must experience at first hand—but rather the necessary relation that pertains in an image of this kind and quality between freedom and constraint. Tanguy found the freedom to construct his own inner reality, a reality he knew to be constrained by the necessity that it become a credible experience of "sur-reality."Sidney Simon is Professor of Modern Art History at the University of Minnesota. He was formerly Curator of the Walker Art Center, Director of the University of Minnesota Art Gallery, and Associate Dean for the Humanities, College of Liberal Art, University of Minnesota. He has organized numerous exhibitions and has written widely on modern art.Endnotes
  1. Yves Tanguy
    French, 1900-1955
    Through Birds, through Fire, but Not through Glass (Par les oiseaux, par feu, et non par verre), 1943
    Oil on canvas, 40 x 35 inches
    Signed and dated, lower right: YVES TANGUY 43
    Given in tribute to Richard S. Davis by Mr. and Mrs. Donald Winston, 75.72.2Provenance: Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York; Stuart Gallery, Boston; Lorser Feitelson, Los Angeles; Richard Feigen & Co., Chicago; Mr. and Mrs. Burt Kleiner, Beverly Hills, California; Richard Feigen & Co., Chicago; Mr. and Mrs. Donald Winston, Los Angeles; The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.Exhibited: Collector's Show, Milwaukee Art Center, 1963, no. 92; Dada, Surrealism and Their Heritage, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1968, no. 318; Yves Tanguy, Acquavella Galleries, Inc., New York, 1974, no. 32; Dada and Surrealism Reviewed, the Arts Council of Great Britain, Hayward Gallery, London, 1978, no. 15.52.References: André Breton, Yves Tanguy (New York: Pierre Matisse, 1946), p. 74 ill.; Yves Tanguy, A Summary of His Works (New York: Pierre Matisse, 1963), no. 311, p. 142, ill.; William S. Rubin, Dada, Surrealism and Their Heritage (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1968), plate no. 141, p. 104; William Rubin, Dada and Surrealist Art (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1968), pp. 374-475, ill. In color; William Gaunt, The Surrealists (London: Thames and Hudson, 1972), p. 190, ill. In color, no. 71; Yves Tanguy (New York: Acquavella Galleries, Inc., 1974), no. 32; John Ashbery, "Yves Tanguy, Geometer of Dreams," Art in America 62, no. 6 (November-December 1974), ill. P. 75; Dada and Surrealism Reviewed (London: The Arts Council of Great Britain, Hayward Gallery, no. 15.52.
  2. Yves Tanguy
    Response to Red (Response au rouge), 1943
    Oil on canvas, 12 x 25 inches
    Signed and dated, lower right: YVES TANGUY 43
    Gifts of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Winston and an anonymous donor, 63.14.2Provenance: Wright Ludington, Santa Barbara; Felix Landau Gallery, Los Angeles; Mr. and Mrs. Donald Winston, Los Angeles; The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.Exhibited: San Francisco Museum of Art, 1948; Second Anniversary Exhibition, Charles H. MacNider Museum, Mason City, Iowa, 1968, n 9. 27, ill.References: Yves Tanguy, A Summary of His Works, no. 310, p. 142, ill.; Art Quarterly 26 (Autumn 1963): 367; "Some Gallery Acquisitions of the Year," The Connoisseur Year Book, London, 1964, p. 102; Catalogue of European Painting, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1970, no. 174, p. 329; Genevieve and Donald Gilmore Art Center, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Bulletin no. 30 (May 1971), p. 10, ill.
  3. The main sources for Tanguy's biography are: James Thrall Soby, Yves Tanguy (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1955); Yves Tanguy, A Summary of His Works (New York: Pierre Matisse gallery, 1963). See also William Rubin, Dada and Surrealist Art (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1968).Important critical writings in periodicals: View, no. 2, second series (May 1942), issue devoted to Tanguy; Nicolas Calas, "Alone," New Road (London), 1943; Nicolas Calas, "Magic Icons," Horizon (London), November, 1946; James Thrall Soby, "Double Solitaire," Saturday Review, September 4, 1954; Marcel Jean, "Yves Tanguy, peintre de la voie lactée," Les Lettres Nouvelles, 3rd year, no. 25 (March 1955), English translation, "Tanguy in the Good old Days," Art News, September 1955; Lawrence Alloway, "De Chirico, Tanguy & Freud," Art News and Review (London), vol. 8, no. 7 (April 28, 1956); Hans Richter, "In memory of Two Friends," College Art Journal 15, no. 4, 1956; John Ashbery, "Yves Tanguy, Geometer of Dreams," Art in America 62, no. 6 (November-December 1974); Hilton Kramer, "Unspecified Disasters," The New York Times, November 24, 1974; Phyllis Derfner, "New York Letter," Art International, January 20, 1975; Robert Pincus-Witten, "Yves Tanguy, Acquavella Gallery," Art Forum, February 1975.
  4. John Ashbery, "Tanguy, Geometer of Dreams," p. 73, quoted from André Breton, Le Surrealisme et al peinture, definitive ed. (Paris: Gallimard, 1965).
  5. J. H. Matthews, The Imagery of Surrealism (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1977), p. 250, discussion of "proses paralleles."
  6. Matthews, Imagery of Surrealism, p. 235 and p. 237, quoted from André Breton, Yves Tanguy.
  7. "The Creative Process," Art Digest 28, no. 8 (January 15, 1954): 14.
  8. William S. Rubin, Dada and Surrealist Art, p. 198.
  9. Breton, Yves Tanguy.
  10. Yves Tanguy, "The Creative Process."
  11. "Yves Tanguy Dies; A Surrealist, 55," The New York Times, January 10, 1955.
  12. Rubin, Dada and Surrealist Art, p. 194. See also Phyllis Derfner, "New York Letter," p. 44.
  13. "Yves Tanguy Dies: A Surrealist, 55," The New York Times.
  14. Hilton Kramer, "Unspecified Disaster," The New York Times, November 14, 1974. See also Robert Pincus-Witten, "Yves Tanguy, Acquavella Gallery," p. 70: "While Surrealism itself is a strong sensibility, Tanguy, in his ever-increasing servitude to natural illusionism, the esthetic counterpart to nineteenth-century imperialism or technological utopianism, is a poor painter."
  15. Kramer, "Unspecified Disaster." See also Sarane Alexandrian, Surrealist Art (New York: Praeger, 1970), pp. 80-81: "Without wishing to be so, Tanguy was the Watteau of Surrealism; his pictures are 'conversations' and 'fêtes galantes,' in which inanimate forms take on the roles of men and women who have gathered together for the pleasures of the dream."
  16. Rubin, Dada and Surrealist Art, p. 196.
  17. The sources for this discussion are Rubin, Dada and Surrealist Art, pp. 122-124; Rubin, Dada, Surrealism and Their Heritage, the chapter "The Pioneer Years of Surrealism, 1924-1929;" and Matthews, Imagery of Surrealism.
  18. Matthew, Imagery of Surrealism, p. 47.
  19. Kramer, "Unspecified Disaster."
  20. Yves Tanguy, A Summary of His Works, no. 313, p. 144.
  21. Ibid., no. 315, p. 145.
  22. Ibid., no. 330, p. 153; also Yves Tanguy, Acquavella Galleries, color plate 33.
Referenced Works of Art
  1. Yves Tanguy
    French, 1900-1955
    Through Birds, through Fire, but Not through Glass, 1943
    Oil on canvas, 40 x 35 inches
    Given in tribute to Richard S. Davis by Mr. and Mrs. Donald Winston, 75.72.2
  2. Detail of figure 1 showing impasto passages
  3. Yves Tanguy
    Response to Red, 1943
    Oil on canvas, 12 x 25 inches
    Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Winston and an anonymous donor, 63.14.2
  4. Yves Tanguy
    Passage of a Smile, 1935
    Toledo Museum of Art
  5. Yves Tanguy
    Twice, 1944
    Private collection, New York
    Photo courtesy of Acquavella Galleries, Inc., New York
  6. Yves Tanguy
    Multiplication of the Arcs, 1954
    Collection, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
    Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund
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Source: Sidney Simon, "Yves Tanguy: Through Birds, through Fire, but Not through Glass," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 63 (1976-1977): 22-31.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009